If you learn nothing else about grief, you should consider these three truths that can change how you see grief, how you mourn and how heavy your burden of loss can become from this point on in your life. Grief is never easy but with knowledge–plus support, comfort and encouragement from others–grief can become easier.
1. Grief is a natural response to the death of someone you love or have an emotional investment in. This means:
- Grief is not a disease, a mental or emotional disorder, a bad attitude or perspective, or a sin.
- Your grief does not indicate there is anything wrong with you that must be fixed, cured, pitied, or corrected. You are okay. You are not going crazy.
- Your grief experience indicates that you still have an overflowing love for a person who is no longer physically present. That overflowing love still needs to be expressed but in a new way since the person is physically absent from your life.
- Grief is how you express that overflowing love for the person who died. Therefore, grief is another healthy expression of love.
- As long as your grief progresses and does not hurt you or anyone else, mourning the death of your loved one is healthy and healing.
2. Grief allows you to recall and miss a valuable person who deserves to be remembered and honored. This means:
- Grieving a valuable person who has died can be a privilege and joy. Therefore grief does not have to be an obnoxious obligation that must be tolerated.
- Grief is not an emotional reaction that you would rather avoid. Your healthy grief is your continued expression of love for the person.
- Grief gives the honor, respect and time your loved one deserves. Because of your grief and mourning your loved one will not be forgotten by others or you.
- Grief allows you to continue a healthy spiritual and emotional relationship with the person who has died. You do not have to give them up, let go of them, or detach from them in order to continue your life. You can take their memory and what they gave you with you the rest of your life. Your loved one’s death did not end your relationship-it just changed the relationship by taking the person from your physical presence.
- Grief has no timetable or time limitations. You can mourn and remember your loved one whenever the need arises in your life.
3. Grieving in a healthy way remembers, respects and honors a valuable life. This means:
- As long as you need to remember and honor your loved one, you will miss them and express your love for them in your grief. Over time that grief will change. It will not always be as overwhelming and all-consuming as it is in the beginning. But as long as you miss your loved one, you will mourn their absence to some degree.
- By the way you grieve and the way you live after the death you become a living memorial and legacy for your loved one. Your grief and your good life carry on their memory and influence. You can carry your loved one with you always.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT, author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” Available on http://grief-works.org/book.php.
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